Sights on opportunity

A SHORTAGE of sheep scanners because of COVID has opened up a business opportunity for Mark Edwards.

Last year many Tasmanian sheep producers struggled to find pre-lambing scanning operators amid travel restrictions.

That prompted Mr Edwards, who also works for Elders as a sales agent, to give the profession a go.

“COVID made things hard for scanners to get here,” he said.

“So, with a few loyal clients they put it to me to get into it, I jumped into it with the help of a few guys.”

Mr Edwards now runs his MJ Edwards Scanning business while continuing as part of the team at Elders in Launceston.

“It ended up being quite good,” he said.

“Obviously this is my first year, so I’ve still got a lot to learn with it, but the response has been quite positive.”

For most sheep producers pre-lamb scanning is now an essential management tool.

“Most of the bigger guys and certainly the more productive ones would be scanning now,” Mr Edwards said.

“It pushes productivity and lambing rates.”

He said most of his clients used scanning to determine which ewes were having single lambs and those having multiples.

“Most people are looking for the ones having twins and as I get better, I’ll try to do triplets as well, but I just need to get a bit more confident,” he said.

“I went away and did a course and most of my feedback has been pretty good, it’s just one of those things that takes practice.”

Mr Edwards said he planned to continue with the scanning long term. “Elders have been really good with it, so I sort of work in around that,” he said.

Mr Edwards said the COVID restrictions had highlighted how reliant the industry was on outside contractors.

“Some guys I did this year, it was their first time because I was doing it.

They’ve looked to get into it in the past, but they didn’t know who to go to.”

He said once producers started using scanning, they generally made it part of their yearly program.

“I’ve got guys now that have given me their dates for next year and said to lock it in.

Mr Edwards is keen to inspire young people to take up careers in farming and recently showed students at the Hagley Farm School how to scan the ewes.

“They loved it and they were really engaged.

What I wanted them to take away from it was there’s more to farming than walking around in the paddocks.

If it gets someone interested in farming down the track, that would be great.”

Scanning season generally runs from March until July.

He said scanning rates this season were good, with most crossbred producers at 180 to 190 per cent.

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